Spend less time in bed for better night's sleep

If you live with insomnia, spending less time in bed and having a good bedtime routine can help you sleep better, a group of Auckland academics say.

A study of nearly 100 Aucklanders with chronic insomnia shows that those who were prescribed a specific amount of time they could spend in bed as well as receiving bedtime routine advice improved their sleep over a period of six months more than those given bedtime routine advice only.

Published this month in the British Journal General Practice, the research shows patients given a sleep prescription experienced less fatigue and better quality sleep.

Sleep prescriptions were individually calculated and were equal to the amount of time a person normally sleeps for plus half of the time they spend awake in bed (with a minimum time in bed of five hours). For example, if you sleep for an average of 3 hours a night and spend another 4 hours in bed awake your sleep prescription would be 3 + (4 ÷ 2) = 5 hours. 

The sleep prescription also included a set bed time and wake time. The bedtime routine advice included reducing caffeine and having relaxation time before bed.

Researchers measured the success of the intervention by reviewing sleep diaries kept by the participants and by asking them to fill out some questionnaires.

The authors of the study, three GPs, a biostatistician and an epidemiologist, say giving the sleep prescription and advice to a patient can fit into two extended GP appointments.

There’s room for further study, as this research focuses on people who don’t have any other health conditions, such as sleep apnoea, depression, anxiety, heart disease or alcohol dependence.

Learn more

Simplified sleep restriction for insomnia in general practice: a randomised controlled trial British Journal General Practice, August 2015
Insomnia Health Navigator, 2015